It had been six years since Edwin had needed to kill anyone and his research was starting to pay off. He strolled through his massive arboretum and smiled at the success. It had been impossible, out in the real world, to accomplish what he’d done here. There were far too many interlopers. Every time he got close to a breakthrough some idiot hiker or love-struck youths would wander into his tiny slice of paradise and disrupt all his organic algorithms. There wasn’t enough room with all the people in the world to achieve the privacy his research needed.
He didn’t regret the time spent and the lives lost though. After all, without his murderous dedication he would have never been approached by the Discovery Collective. It was only here, on his own island in the Unconstrained Keys, that he was free to work without interruption, distraction, or intrusion. He was also in proximity to a good number of other scientists, on other islands, who shared his understanding that ethics were a poor excuse for impeding progress. Sure, most of them were sociopathic kooks, but they were all brilliant and the conversations were never dull. Their input had been invaluable to his progress.
He’d come to love his new home away from the world.
He was several hours into his daily walk when he noticed the aberrations. It was important, in his line of research, to be attuned to the vibe of his landscape and the rhythm of the nature within it. To this end, it was vital to take significant amounts of time strolling the trails and hiking around with no particular destination in mind. He let his feet bring him wherever instinct led. It was what his mother used to call “a good ol’ coddiwomple”. It was one of the best parts of his job.
The entire island was a stunning beauty and there wasn’t a plant out of place. He’d imported over nineteen thousand different species, arranged them, and cultivated them all in exactly the right locations and patterns. There wasn’t a patch of weeds, mouse hole, or fallen branch that didn’t belong where it was. Mile after mile of perfectly placed organic clockwork and Professor Edwin Marshwelling was the artificer behind it all.
Weather control machines replicated different environments, temperatures, and humidity ranges. Tiny humanoid robots (camouflaged in brown plastic and fake foliage) gardened and harvested where necessary. Drones patrolled for intruders with deadly accuracy. A trio of stealth dirigibles scanned everything from above it all to collect data. From the picturesque trail where Edwin stood, none of those things were visible.
From his vantage the functionality was hidden behind a jumbled cascade of flowers (in dozens of colors) spilling down the bougainvillea vines. Palm trees leaned in a cathedral arch along his route. Butterflies danced and he could hear one of his twenty six thousand waterfalls gurgling up ahead. By all accounts, it was paradise.
But Edwin knew it well enough to know better. Something, somewhere, was off. Not a tiny bit off either. Something was amiss in a big way. He felt it as he moved though the Southern Asia representation. Whatever it was, didn’t feel close. It was a tickle, somewhere far off in the enormous garden. He stood still, thinking about world politics and trying to get a feel for where the trouble might be originating from. There was always strife in the Middle East so a change from that area would mean some sort of peace had broken out. He certainly wasn’t feeling peace. He pondered the big boys, with their chest thumping and adorable nuclear arsenals. He wasn’t aware of any major shifts from them and it didn’t seem likely. He closed his eyes and focused on the sensations in his feet.
Finally, he cursed and set out. He knew where to go. He’d been hoping that some global disaster was impending and it would provide good research data. But no, the trouble was where the trouble was always from; right here in the Unconstrained Keys of the Discovery Collective.
They were founded, more than two
centuries ago, by master physicist Elizabeth Pockels. A group of
scientists, dedicated to their fields above all else, had formed the
Collective and taken over a large cluster of islands in the South
Pacific. It was a refuge for people who were ostracized and driven
out of society by the backwards values of the rest of the world.
Researchers who believed that there were no omelettes without cracked
eggs. No progress without sacrifice. The value of knowledge
outweighed the value of life.
They’d run their projects unobstructed for decades before the world had enough of them and their often deadly objectives. Under threat of war (which was laughable and amounted mostly to annoying interruption), Doctor Pockels had managed to fold their progressive commune into a conjoined micro-dimension. She’d died in the process and become the closest thing an atheist scientist might have to a saint; revered and canonized. The woman was long gone before he’d ever joined, but Professor Marshwallow was eternally grateful. They all were. What she did had allowed them the peace and freedom of being hidden from the world. It no longer caused them any trouble.
Trouble from within the Collective was another issue.
Edwin arrived at the garden area that represented his current home and opened the wooden gate. It was significantly more utilitarian than the rest of the world. The reason was obvious; there was more production done here than anywhere else. The Discovery Collective lived up to it’s name and such a thing was reflected in the farm-like nature of it’s predictive flora-simulacrum. Aesthetically, he’d built the entire thing to look like a hobbit village, complete with tiny hill homes and their dense little gardens paralleling the major islands in the pocket dimension of the Unconstrained Keys. Each small mound was teeming with vegetables in boxy patches and fenced areas; tall corn, fat gourds, and climbing bean vines. He marched among them looking for anything obviously out of place.
When he found it, his eyes went wide. He took a pair of glasses from his pocket and put them on to ensure he was seeing clearly. He furrowed his brow and stepped right and left, looking at it from several angles. His frown bent his moustache upside down with his scrutiny. Even without his computer assisted forecast he could see the danger in it. Massive danger. Trouble unlike anything he’d ever seen before.
And it was right next door.
There, growing on the very top of the mound that represented the adjacent island of Doctor Proboscis, was a thriving patch of turnips. Rogue roots, out of place. Harbingers of doom.
Professor Marshwelling didn’t spend long studying the plants. He summoned a lift transport. He needed to get back to his lab as fast as possible to analyze the data and see how long they had. If his gut instincts were right (and they usually were) everyone in the Unconstrained Keys Discovery Collective would be dead by morning.
Strange things are afoot on the Island of Doctor Proboscis. Can Professors Marshwallow and Jelanie figure it out in time to save the collective of mad scientists from certain doom? Sign up for my Patreon and get the whole huge story! Over forty pages of strange science fantasies!